Optoma W304M WXGA DLP Projector
  • Performance
  • 4
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$1,499 MSRP Discontinued

If you've been considering buying an LED-based, 500-lumen projector because you need the portability, but you've hesitated because of the low brightness, the Optoma W304M may be the alternative you've been looking for. It weighs just a few ounces more than those LED-based models, at 3.3 pounds, but it boasts a 3100-lumen rating, making it a light canon by comparison.

Built around a standard lamp and a DLP chip, the W304M offers the same 1280x800 native resolution as typical LED-based portable projectors. That makes it appropriate for most common business use, from a PowerPoint presentation to moderately large sections of spreadsheets or documents when you need the text to be readable.

Even better, along with brightness and resolution, the W304M delivers excellent data image quality. And although its lamp isn't meant to last the life of the projector, as with LED-based models, it's rated for up to 5000 hours in Eco mode, which is longer than many projectors offer. Just as important, it's only a small step up in price compared with its LED-based, 500-lumen competition, at $849 street. That makes it light, bright, and affordable too.

Strong Points

Excellent data image quality. Data image quality is one of the W304M's best points. It did exceedingly well on color balance, with suitably neutral grays at various levels from white to black, even in it's brightest mode. Color quality was also good, although a little short of excellent. Yellow was a little mustard colored in all modes, and red was a little dark in the brightest mode, but colors were generally well saturated and suitably eye catching.

More important for most data images is that the projector maintains detail well. Black text on white, for example, was crisp and readable in my tests at 7 points, and white text on black was just a touch less crisp, but still readable, at the same size. The projector also did a good job of auto-synching to an analog connection, showing only a hint of pixel jitter in screens that bring out that problem. I saw little to no improvement when I switched to a digital connection.

Highly portable. At just 2.8" x 8.7" x 7.0" (HWD) and 3.3 pounds, the Optoma W304M is only slightly bigger and heavier than LED-based, 500-lumen models, making it just as portable for most purposes. It's certainly small and light enough to serve as a regular traveling companion. To make that easier, Optoma ships it with a soft carrying case complete with a handle and a pouch on the side to hold the remote and cables.

Zoom for easier setup. The W304M's 1.15x manual zoom is minimal. However, it counts as a strong point in this case, because the 500-lumen, LED-based competition typically offers no zoom at all. Quite simply, any zoom is better than none, since it gives you some flexibility in adjusting the image size at any given distance from the screen. That's particularly helpful for a portable projector that you'll be setting up repeatedly in different locations.

Long lamp life. Even at full power, the rated lamp life for the W304M is 4,000 hours, which is longer than typical. In Eco mode it increases by 25%, to 5000 hours. Either way, the long lamp life helps save on total cost of ownership, and also means less frequent maintenance. Replacement lamps are $229 street, which is a little lower.

3D support. As with more and more new projectors with 3D, the W304M includes an HDMI 1.4a port, which means it offers 3D not just with computers, but with video sources from Blu-ray players to game consoles as well. If you've already invested in 120Hz DLP-link glasses, however, be aware that although they'll work for video games with the W304M, you'll need to buy 144Hz glasses to work with Blu-ray movies at 24 frames per second.

Test Results and Connectivity

Suitably bright image with wide brightness range. The W304M's light output in its brightest mode was acceptably close to its 3100-lumen rating in our tests, at 2621 lumens, or about 85% of the rating. Other factory-defined operating modes ranged from 1039 lumens for sRGB to 1995 lumens for Blackboard. Brightness drops by about 23% in Eco mode, to 2027 lumens with the brightest preset. As a practical matter, the W304M was easily bright enough with most of its preset modes to light up a 92" diagonal screen in moderate levels of ambient light.

One issue for DLP projectors is that color brightness can be significantly lower than white brightness, with the difference potentially affecting both color quality and the brightness of color images. The greater the percentage difference, the more likely there will be an effect on color quality, and more extreme that effect is likely to be.

With the W304M, we measured the color brightness at roughly 25% of the white brightness in the brightest mode, which is why some colors are noticeably darker in that mode. With other modes, the color brightness ranged from 35% of white brightness in Blackboard mode to a solid 66% in sRGB mode, in which there is little noticeable effect on color quality.

Acceptable brightness uniformity. The W304M does an acceptable job of maintaining uniform brightness across the screen. Its measured brightness uniformity is a low 55%, which is enough variation to see easily on a solid white screen. With the review unit, the bottom of the screen was clearly brighter than the top, and I saw a slightly cool spot in one corner. However, the brightest and dimmest areas are far enough apart that the lack of uniformity is hard to see when the screen is broken up by graphics or text. Unless you're unusually sensitive to variations in brightness this shouldn't be an issue.

Acceptable connectivity. As with most portable projectors, the W304M offers limited connection choices, but it includes everything you're likely to need, if not everything you might want.

  • 1 HDMI 1.4a
  • 1 VGA IN (for RGB or component)
  • 1 RCA composite
  • 1 Stereo mini plug IN
  • 1 Stereo mini plug OUT
  • 1 USB B (for mouse control)

    Limitations

    Video is best reserved for short clips. Video quality for the W304M is roughly mid-range for a data projector, which makes it well short of high quality. On the plus side, I saw only minimal noise, and it handled shadow detail better than many data projectors. However I also saw far more posterization than with most projectors.

    The more serious issue for video is rainbow artifacts, which is always a potential problem for single-chip DLP projectors. As is typical, the W304M tends not to show these artifacts very often with data images, so it's unlikely that anyone will find them bothersome for data presentations. With video however, I saw them far more often than with most projectors. Anyone who sees them easily is almost certain to find them annoying with video that lasts more than a few minutes.

    b>Low volume audio. As with the audio systems in most light-weight projectors, the W304M's 1-watt mono speaker is arguably not worth the effort of carrying the extra weight it adds to the projector. Even sitting just two feet away, I had to concentrate to make out dialog in clips with people speaking at normal volume. It doesn't help either that if you're close enough to hear the words, it's hard to ignore the fan, rated at 33dB. If you need sound, plan on using an external audio system.

    Conclusion

    If you're looking for a portable data projector, and particularly if you've been looking at an LED-based, 500-lumen model as something you don't love but might have to settle for, the Optoma W304M may well be the projector you really want. It's almost as light as 500-lumen models, it's a lot brighter, and it's only a little more expensive.

    In addition to its balance of portability, brightness, data image quality, and price, the W304M's pluses include its long lamp life and its 3D support for both HDMI connections to video sources and computer-based 3D with VGA connections. Don't overlook the zoom lens for easier setup, either, or the 1280x800 native resolution that lets you show more detail on screen than with lower resolutions.

    If you need sound, you'll need an external audio system, but that's true for most projectors in this weight class. The one potentially important issue is that the W304M is the wrong choice if you need to show much video beyond short clips. If what you need is a data projector, however, it will be hard to beat.

    For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma W304M projector page.

    Comments (2) Post a Comment
    Jerry Hyde Posted Sep 17, 2014 10:59 AM PST
    More a question than a comment, I am highly sensitive to the DLP artifacts in earlier projectors. I wonder if improvement has been made to the point that people like me would not see it??? I am interested in an Optoma W304M, but am concerned about this..

    Thanks, Jerry
    Bill Livolsi Posted Sep 18, 2014 10:04 AM PST
    Jerry,

    I assume you're talking about rainbows. DLP business projectors still use 2x speed color wheels more often than not. If you know you are sensitive to rainbows, either try out a DLP designed for home theater (they usually have faster color wheels) or buy a projector that uses LCD or LCoS (which have no rainbows).

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